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The Tension between Making a Decision to Stay or Leave and Becoming a Mother for Women who Experience Intimate Partner Violence during Pregnancy Open Access


Other title
Becoming a Mother
Intimate Partner Violence during Pregnancy
Decision making to stay or Leave
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Banks, Kathryn I
Supervisor and department
Olson, Karin (Faculty of Nursing)
Hegadoren, Kathleen (Faculty of Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Paul, Pauline (Faculty of Nursing)
Ford-Gilboe, Marilyn (Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, The University of Western Ontario
Chari, Radha (Faculty of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Mayan, Maria (Extension- Community University Partnership)
Richter, Solina (Faculty of Nursing)
Faculty of Nursing

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Intimate partner violence and abuse is a serious health issue for women. Not only must women manage the social, physical and psychological consequences of the violence and abuse, but they must also decide whether to stay or leave the relationship. Based on my clinical experience, I think that when intimate partner violence and abuse occur during pregnancy, these two tasks become more complex because of their potential impact on the health of the unborn child and on the woman‘s ability to undertake the developmental work associated with pregnancy. Little is written about how pregnancy influences the ability of women to address the challenges of violence and abuse, and thus nurses lack guidance about how to intervene at this time. The aim of my research was to address this gap by developing a description of how women made the decision to stay or leave an abusive intimate partner relationship when the violence and abuse took place during pregnancy. Using an interpretive description research design, I conducted interviews with 8 women who were 18 years of age and older, who had experienced intimate partner violence and abuse during pregnancy, and who subsequently left the relationship. Data were generated and analyzed concurrently. Theoretical sampling, data generation, and analysis continued until no new data were obtained. The violence and abuse frequently occurred over long periods of time, often beginning prior to pregnancy and continuing after the birth of the baby. Participants reported that despite the abuse, they tried to make the relationship work so the father would be present for the baby. This period of ―trying to make the relationship work often took place over many months or years, in hopes that their partners‘ abusive behaviours would eventually change. A crisis of some kind, such as a call by a neighbor to the police, provided an opportunity for some of the women to reflect on their experiences and realize that the violence and abuse they were experiencing was not their fault. There was a tension between decisions related to the developmental work associated with pregnancy and decisions related to the management of their partners‘ abusive behaviour. The women in this study each said they eventually realized that they needed to put their baby‘s needs ahead of her own desires to maintain a relationship with their partners, but this was not a linear process, nor was it a decision that was made with finality in mind. Sometimes the women tested to see if the relationship was really over by going to shelters but also asked their partners to attend counselling, or asked other family members to intervene in some way. The women were questioning if they needed to be a single parent. The women who decided to leave the relationship permanently, often despite limited resources, decided they had ―had enough. The decision to leave was underpinned by the woman‘s belief that she could make a better life with her child.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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